Monthly Archives: July 2014

Studio Theatre Awards 2013

Here at IBY Simon & I were delighted to receive this Studio Theatre Award for services to Independent Theatre.

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The UK’s Independent Professional Theatre Awards are voted for from 27th December every year by the theatre going public and industry.The awards are uniquely free from sponsorship and corporate funding thus reflecting true industry opinion. It is the theatre going public that make the ultimate decision.


The results were announced in January this year, and were as follows:

Best Actor (Male) – Jon Coleman as Waiting Man – Nowt Part of Festival 2013

Best Actor (Female) – Frances Ruffelle as Piaf – Curve Theatre, Leicester 2013

Best Play – Blood and Chocolate – Mike Kenny – Pilot Theatre, York 2013

Best Venue – 3 Minute Theatre, Manchester

Services to Independent Theatre – Nigel Ellacott & Simon Curtis –

Thanks to everyone who voted for and we are very proud to be able to provide this service. Our thanks to Qdos for supporting and sponsoring us over the past fourteen years!

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Funny Bones!


Freddie (“Parrotface”) Davies has recently completed his autobiography with Anthony Teague. Ken Dodd has penned the foreword, and it is about Freddie’s life and career and also his Grandfather’s career- Jack Herbert. In the film Disney film “Funny Bones”, in which Freddie appears with Jerry Lewis, George Carl and Lee Evans, some of the routines are based on Jack Herbert’s variety acts.


Here’s some information on this book that includes some of Freddie’s Pantomime appearances around the country.

Funny Bones – My Life in Comedy – Paperback

By Freddie Davies, with Anthony Teague

With a foreword by Ken Dodd


In 1964, a single appearance on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks made ‘Parrotface’ comedian Freddie Davies famous overnight. Spectacular success followed, stars such as Judy Garland, Cliff Richard, even Cary Grant, were fans…

But when it all began to slip in the 1980s, Freddie became a producer and then forged yet another career as a serious actor. He appeared to great acclaim in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Secret Garden and cult film Funny Bones – alongside Lee Evans and Jerry Lewis – based on tales of Freddie’s music hall comic grandfather Jack Herbert. Now he has come full circle, delighting audiences again as Samuel Tweet in theatres up and down the land.

Fifty years on from his television debut, Freddie finally tells his own story, revealing for the first time the tragedy behind his early days in Salford and a family secret that rocked his world. He paints a vivid and hilarious picture of a gruelling apprenticeship in the Northern clubs – revealing how ‘Parrotface’ spluttered into life.

With a foreword by legendary comic Ken Dodd, this unique autobiography is a poignant and hilarious evocation of a vanished world, offering insights into the art of stand-up and a richly nostalgic treat for comedy connoisseurs.


Price: £14.99

See more at:


The Panto Roadshow 2014

It is full on Panto Time at the moment! I am currently working on the costumes for the Kenneth More Theatre’s “Dick Whittington” which will be this theatre’s special production on this its fortieth birthday! The first Panto here presented by my brother, Vivyan was Dick Whittington, and it seems fitting to celebrate a special birthday with the same panto.

It does seem a bit crazy to be sitting in a theatre wardrobe on a sunny day in July, but there is method to my madness. A panto wardrobe takes a fair bit of organising, and my deadline is mid September to get as much completed as I possibly can. From that date onwards Andrew Ryan and I will be heading all over the UK with the annual Pantomime Roadshow.

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We start in East London for two weeks of two performances a day on behalf of the Kenneth More Theatre Ilford from September 22nd, and then head off on the Roadshow tour spending  the week commencing October 13th in Southampton for The Mayflower Theatre, then up to Llandudno on October 20th and week for Venue Cymru (seems like I never left!) followed by heading up North to Glasgow for the SECC week of Roadshow from October 27th, then down to Wolverhampton and The Grand Theatre’s Roadshow on November 3rd and week, before finally arriving at Bradford for the Alhambra Panto Roadshow , week commencing November 10th.

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That’s Eighty Performances of Roadshow, a week off to pack, and then rehearsals begin in London for Pantomime! Andrew rehearsing for “Snow White” in Nottingham and I’ll be rehearsing for “Aladdin” in Hull. The costumes will have to be bagged and packed off to the two venues at the end of rehearsal week, and be unpacked when we arrive on the Monday.

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So that is why I’m labouring now in the Summer Sun to get all of “Dick Whittington” on board during the next ten weeks. The fabric shopping has mostly been done, and parcelled off to makers around the UK, and further afield. My own costumes are being sorted for “Aladdin” at the same time, and I’m lending a hand at the KMTheatre to hire out Snow White and Aladdin at the same time. It can get a tad confusing at times!

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Nautical costumes are being made, and new Dame costumes to herald the return of my mate Marc Seymour to play Sarah The Cook at Ilford, alongside Loraine Porter as Fairy, and costuming Natalie Cleverley as a slinky Queen Rat- a whole twenty five years after we both played Hull Panto last!

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Childrens shoes and tights are ordered, sketches completed for Alice Fitzwarren, Tommy The Cat and for a set of new sailor costumes, and new wigs about to be ordered from Kevin and Gerry for Dame Marc.  Mr Bahal is providing some stunning sequin costumes that will be ready by the end of this month, and Bambos has already delivered three pairs of shiny new Dame Boots. Panto is in full flow here for “Dick Whittington”, and all who sail in her!


The Oxford Street Pantomime

royal_princesss_theatre_oxford_street_1880s_print“Doors open 6.30pm – carriages at 11pm”

You certainly got your money’s worth visiting the panto in 1873!

I recently bought a programme for the pantomime “Puss In Boots” at the Princess’s Theatre Royal in London’s Oxford Street. If you’ve ever shopped in Woolworth there, or perhaps at HMV or call in today at Sportsdirect, you will be entering what was once a magnificent theatre at Number 73 Oxford Street.


This programme has the front cover taken up with James Guiver the manager presenting the most popular couple of the era- The Taylor and Burton of the theatrical world, Mr & Mrs Rousby in the premier of “Griselda”.

Turn the page and you find that following on from that “Turgid Melodrama” as it had been described, a mere two hours later at 9pm the pantomime “Little Puss In Boots or Harlequin. The Cruel Ogre and The Miller’s Son” began.

Princessth2dark The programme is full of puns and reveals the plot as each scene passes. Notably this version has not yet acquired the Pantomime Dame, and still has the sub title involving Harlequin, although by now the actual Harlequinade has moved to the very end, it is tagged on after the Grand Transformation when Luna appeared in her car (a carriage I assume?) and a flying effect took several of the cast up into the flies in a chariot!


The convention of having an interval was not created until the 1890’s at Drury Lane, so the audience either came to see the bits they wanted to see, left before the Harlequinade or sat through the entire four hours of entertainment. Added to the quite lengthy Harlequinade was a troupe of performing dogs which Mr Lorenzo repeated in the matinee performances every Wednesday and Saturday when Mr & Mrs Rousby got a lie-in, and just the pantomime and Harlequinade were performed at 2pm. Interesting that these matinee performances were called “Morning” performances- that term seemed to apply to any show not performed at night in that era.

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The public flocked to see Clara Rousby, described as the most beautiful woman on the stage at that time by the Daily News. She and her husband created Historic roles- the public wept as she portrayed St Joan at the stake, and her portrait was admired at the Royal Academy. She and her Actor Manager husband William made a fortune before retiring.

I never knew that there was a Princess’s Theatre in Oxford Street, one that presented Plays, Opera and Pantomime, and decided to seek out where the Stage Door must once have been. The front is easy to spot, recently Uniqlo Store, HMV and now Sports Direct, and it is situated between Winsley Street and The Adam & Eve Court, an alleyway running into Oxford Street. The Stage door was in Eastcastle Street.

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The Theatre where Little Puss In Boots was performed was the second building on the site- this one opened in 1840, and was demolished only forty years later. A mere twenty three weeks later the new “Royal Princess” Theatre opened in 1880 and continued until it too was demolished in 1931, after nearly twenty years of non theatrical use, to become the new Woolworths Store in 1931.

The auditorium looks very cosy in these illustrations, with mostly boxes to sit in, going up into the rafters.

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It seems strange today to imagine seeing a lengthy play followed by a pantomime with many scenic changes and effects, followed by a knock about Harlequinade of comic songs and sketches- sausages, red hot pokers and slapsticks… all with no interval- but then those were the good old days!